Friday, March 17, 2006

French Students Hit Streets To Protest New Labor Law

Via Washington Post, an estimated 250,000 students took to the streets of Paris and major cities across France on Thursday, escalating a political rebellion by the country's younger generation against a government that is floundering in its attempts to restructure a moribund economy.

Pigdog believes protests and demonstrations reveals the dependecy on the government. Although pigdog is on the side of the students, I also think they should find a way to break away from the government. Keepingin line with the everlasting optimism of the Frankfurt school, in ourcurrent state very few, if any of us are capable of meaningfulprotest at all. Below are the details of the protests.
Some protesters wore black garbage bags to symbolize their charge that the government treats young people as disposable workers. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, but at the end, about 250 people clashed with riot police in a popular Parisian tourist and shopping area.

The protests have expanded rapidly in the past week, from a few campus demonstrations to turnouts in 80 cities and towns Thursday. They could undermine the political party of President Jacques Chirac ahead of next year's presidential and parliamentary election campaigns, political analysts here say.

Strikes and street protests are as common as spring showers in France. But the student rallies have been particularly troubling to the government because of their rapid spread, the threat of participation by labor unions and the historical power of students in France. A student protest that began at Paris's famous Sorbonne university in 1968 and spread to schools and factories across the country led to the resignation of President Charles de Gaulle.

This week, students were protesting a newly passed law that has the support of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, a leading presidential candidate from Chirac's party. The measure, due to go into effect in April, will make it easier to hire and fire young people at a time when the youth unemployment rate averages 23 percent.

The protesters' anger focuses on provisions that will allow companies to fire employees under 26 at any time during their first two years of work, without cause.

"They're offering us nothing but slavery," said Maud Pottier, 17, a student at Jules Verne High School in Sartrouville, north of Paris, who was wrapped in layers of scarves as protection against the chilly, gray day. "You'll get a job knowing that you've got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked. I'd rather spend more time looking for a job and get a real one."

Business leaders complain that existing French labor laws make it virtually impossible to dismiss incompetent employees without giving them prohibitively costly severance packages. As a result, the leaders say, many companies are either relying increasingly on temporary workers or not hiring at all.

Many economists blame the strict laws for the country's lifeless economy.
The catalyst for the new law was the wave of rioting that swept cities across France last fall. Young men and boys from low-income, suburban, immigrant housing projects where the unemployment rate tops 40 percent burned cars, public buildings and businesses in a three-week spree of anger directed at what the youths considered an unresponsive government.

The violence severely damaged the reputation of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy -- another likely presidential candidate and Villepin's main rival within the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party.

The new law has drawn a mixed reaction among unemployed youths who lack college educations and live in France's poorest communities. But it is strongly opposed by college students, who say it discriminates against young workers by not giving them the same protections as older ones. "This is an alternative to unemployment that isn't acceptable," said Boris Canepa, 22, who studies health safety and the environment at the University of Paris XIII in the northern suburban area of Saint-Denis, where last fall's riots began.

About 200 students from the city of Rouen in northwestern France descended from train cars in Paris on Thursday chanting and singing, some wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words "knockdown prices," a reference to their belief that the government is selling out young workers at bargain prices.

More than 100 students on bicycles blocked streets surrounding the Louvre Museum, piggybacking on the main student demonstrations to protest cuts in school sports coaching staffs.

Near the end of the demonstration, about 250 youths threw rocks at police and set fire to a newspaper kiosk in the square between the Bon March?department store and the city's renowned Hotel Lutetia. Police fired tear gas to break up the group.

In the southern city of Toulouse, students supporting the marches and strikes fought with youths who were arguing to keep the local university open. Police dispersed protesters in Rennes, in the west, who attacked cars and set garbage bins ablaze. Other demonstrators temporarily disrupted rail traffic in the southwestern city of Bordeaux and at a Paris station. The French Interior Ministry put the total national turnout at nearly 250,000. The national students' union said about 330,000 people took part.

Most of the nation's colleges and universities have been shut down or partially closed in recent weeks because of protests. Last Saturday, Paris police stormed the campus of the Sorbonne to forcibly remove demonstrators.

Villepin has drawn criticism from within his own party over the new law and has dropped in popularity polls to a record low of 36 percent. After a meeting at the Labor Ministry on Thursday, Villepin said he was "open to dialogue" about the law but did not indicate that he would back away from it.

During the demonstration in Paris on Thursday, Antoine du Couessin, a third-year history student, stopped among the banners and chanting protesters to snap a photo of a man peering down at the street from his balcony. "Back to work!" the man shouted angrily at the demonstrators.

The man was Couessin's father. "He's 100 percent behind" the proposed law, Couessin said. "It's really difficult at home right now. I just go straight for my bedroom."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Residential School System in Canada: Some facts

pigdog's old friend Jesse of the North just posted a well writen piece about the reality of Residential School in Canada.

"I want to get rid of the Indian problem. Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed."

Quoted from Duncan C. Scott, head of Indian Affairs, 1920.

I'd like to take some time to talk about the Residential school system in Canada that was in use between 1892 and 1996. They were operated by the Government of Canada in cooperation with the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United and Presbyterian churches. The common objective of these schools was to assimilate aboriginal children into Euro-Canadian society.

I'd like to point out that I'm not personally religious. I respect other people's right to religious beliefs as long as they don't try to impose those beliefs on me. I can acknowledge that religion has several positive aspects to it and I can understand how it can give people comfort. I am just unable to trust religious establishments by and large. These are my own personal beliefs and I expect them to be respected. Anyways, on with the post.

I think it's important to note that not all Residential schools in Canada were horrific and there were some people involved in the school system that had good intentions for the aboriginal children. But the fact remains that these people who had good intentions were the minority. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse was widespread in these schools and there has been little done to reconcile these gross injustices.

There are a lot of misconceptions concerning the truth of these schools and the goals of these institutions. By and large most people get their information on the history of the residential schools and the present legal actions from incomplete sources, a headline here and there about churches going bankrupt and the rampant substance abuse and suicides among the survivors, but very few actually know the full truth behind this issue and the full extent of the damage caused by these schools. Here are some facts about the Residential school system in Canada:

Canada's Indian residential school system began officially in 1892 but many features of this system had been in use since the 1600's in the early days of the Christian missionary infiltrations into North America.

From the beginning, the schools showed systematic problems. Often, the education offered by these institutions was inadequate to the needs of the children. Physical, emotional and intellectual deprivation with occurrences of disease, hunger and overcrowding were noted as early as 1897.

Physical and sexual abuse was extremely common in these schools, as were mortality rates. In some cases 50% of students would die in these schools.

The federal government never had a formal policy in place to refuse family allowance payments, however former Inuit students have said that their parents were threatened with the loss of these payments if they refused to send their children to these schools. Around Canada, the missionaries regularly used legal force to remove aboriginal children from their families. Parents were threatened by guns, jail sentences and withholding of rations if they refused to release their children to the authorities.

The children were only allowed to see their families for a total of 2 months in the year. Speaking any native languages was severely punished, sometimes by having their tongues stuck to frozen fences, getting strapped, locked in a closet and/or ridiculed. They were given uniforms, individualism was discouraged, they were forced to adopt a new religion and were referred to by number instead of by name.

In 1920, Duncan C Scott made it mandatory for Indian Children to attend residential schools.

The goals of this school system were primarily to eliminate aboriginal language, culture and belief systems in Canada and to oppress aboriginal students physically, emotionally and spiritually. The practice used was based on complete separation from the family and culture for up to ten years or more, ensuring that these children as young as 4 years old would not know their own people, culture, languages and law.

By 1945, almost 10,000 students were enrolled in residential schools in Canada. Only slightly over 100 were enrolled in grade 8 and there was no record of students enrolled beyond grade 9.

Over 40% of the teaching staff in 1950 had little or no professional training.

The schools typically only spent 2 hours a day on academic subjects. The focus was on learning English or French as well as Euro-Canadian values and culture. Aboriginal boys were limited to learning practical training of agricultural skills, where girls were taught how to do crafts and household duties in an agricultural context. The curriculum prepared Aboriginal students for their "expected future existence on the lower fringes of Euro-Canadian society" (Barman, Herbert & McCaskill, 1986, p.6)

Students were being neglected, supplied with alcohol, pornographic material, female students were becoming pregnant, and the spread of STI's among the students were reported. (source: "A Brief Report of the Federal Government of Canada's Residential School System for Inuit 2005, David King. p.6")

$800 million and over 100 years was dedicated to assimilation in residential schools, but only $350 million and 10 years has been dedicated to healing.

Currently in Canada there are over 87,000 residential school survivors who live with the legacy of this cultural genocide. But when you take into consideration that these survivors grew up in complete isolation from the family structure and surrounded by all this aforementioned ugliness for their entire childhoods, the children of these survivors must live with this ugly legacy as well. Until reconciliation is achieved and Canadians acknowledge the truth of our country’s treatment of native peoples, and the perpetrators of these vile acts are brought to justice, the cycle of pain, hate and isolation will only continue to fester in aboriginal society.

This is an ugly reality, but until this issue is resolved, it’s unreasonable to expect aboriginal communities to become healthy self sustaining communities. This issue will not just go away by itself. Until meaningful reconciliation by the federal government and the church is made, there will continue to be an unsightly stain on the Canadian flag. We are human beings; we have the fundamental right to justice. The truth must be known.

I’d like to leave you with a speech given by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce at Lincoln Hall, Washington, DC in 1879, where he argued for the same liberties granted to American Citizens.

“Good words do not last long unless they amount to something. Words do not pay for my dead people. They do not pay for my country. They do not protect my father’s grave. Good words do not give back my children. Good words will not give my people good health and stop them from dying. I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises.”

(Source: The Legacy of Hope Foundation)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What's "new socialist countryside" like?

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) recently released an important policy document on building "a new socialist countryside," and established it as one of the primary objectives of the 11th Five-Year (2006-10) Guidelines for National Economic and Social Development currently under discussion by legislators during the ongoing session of the National People's Congress.

According to China Daily, "a new socialist countryside means advanced production, improved livelihood, a civilized social atmosphere, clean and tidy villages and efficient management."

CPC putting forward this concept could be a watershed in socialism building in China. The model of China's development is given priority to cities. For the last five decades, China has been focusing on the urban development. The interest of rural areas have been compromised to support the development of urban areas. This proposal suggests a shift of the development towards the countryside. It is time for "industries (to) support agriculture and cities (to) support the countryside". It is also a response to farmers resurgences happening in China these years.

The "new socialist countryside" covers 8 parts: water conservancy facilities, road construction, the use of marsh gas and solar energy in rural areas, construction of the rural power network, rural education, rural public health care system, culture, and, rural social security system.

I doubt whether it would be another round of privatization and commercialization in China, this time in rural area, and whether it would become a burden for rural residents.

(the Chinese character in the picture means "peasant")

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Reporters without Borders: Let's Punish the People

Yahoo Inc., Google Inc. , Microsoft Corp., and, Cisco will go on Capitol Hill today to defend corporate policies for dealing with China that they say balance business interests with human-rights concerns. That pressure will escalate today when the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations questions officials of the four technology companies, along with other witnesses critical of their activities.

Via NYT, the subcommittee's chairman, Representative Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, plans to introduce legislation by week's end that would restrict an Internet company's ability to censor or filter basic political or religious terms — even if that puts the company at odds with local laws in the countries where it now operates. Among the act's provisions is the establishment of an Office of Global Internet Freedom, which would establish standards for Internet companies operating abroad. In addition to prohibiting companies from filtering out certain political or religious terms, it would require them to disclose to users any sort of filtering they undertake.

Lucie Morillon, the Washington representative of Reporters Without Borders, said the companies should both self-regulate and be overseen by the U.S. government to prevent future crackdowns against dissident journalists.

The group will ask Internet companies not to host network infrastructure in politically repressive countries, and it also will ask the U.S. Commerce Department to approve a company's entry into those markets, Morillon said (from washington post).

Because of the unjustified censorship from Chinese government, the people should be excluded and deprived of internet. Brilliant proposal, Reporters without Borders.

(pic from NYT: From left to right, Mark Chandler, Cisco's general counsel, Elliot Schrage, a vice president for corporate communications at Google, Jack Krumholtz, managing director of federal government affairs and associate general counsel for Microsoft, and Michael Callahan, Yahoo's general counsel before a joint hearing on the Internet in China. )

Saturday, February 11, 2006

White Guys are Taking Our Girls

Via wangfuproduction: Presenting the newest "short" film (actually 15 min long) from Wong Fu Productions. A comedy poking fun at, well, you'll find out. It's all just for fun, nothing serious or meant to offend anyone. Just give it a chance, you might even learn something from it.
Check out the video here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tyrants Can Be Elected.... Right Mr. Bush?

Rumsfeld likens Venezuela's Chavez to Hitler

Washington - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld likened Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Adolf Hitler, reflecting continuing tension inrelations between the United States and the Latin American government.

Rumsfeld, asked during a National Press Club appearance Thursday about indications of a deteriorating general relationship between Washington and parts of Latin America, said he believes such a characterization "misses themark."

"We saw dictatorships there. And then we saw most of those countries, withthe exception of Cuba, for the most part move towards democracies," he said. "We also saw corruption in that part of the world. And corruption issomething that is corrosive of democracy."

The secretary acknowledged that "we've seen some populist leadership appealing to masses of people in those countries. And elections like Evo Morales in Bolivia take place that clearly are worrisome."

"I mean, we've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money," Rumsfeldadded. "He's a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler waselected legally and then consolidated power and now is, of course, workingclosely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others."

Rising tensions

There have been increasing signs of hostility between Washington and Caracas, and on Monday Chavez said Venezuela's intelligence agencies have "infiltrated" a group of military officials from the U.S. Embassy who wereallegedly involved in espionage.

Venezuelan authorities, including the vice president, have accused officialsat the U.S. Embassy of involvement in a spying case in which Venezuelan naval officers allegedly passed sensitive information to the Pentagon.

It was not the first such charge by Chavez.

He has accused President Bush of backing efforts to overthrow his leftist government, and specifically has charged that the United States supported ashort-lived coup in 2002, fomented a devastating strike in 2004 and expelledsome American missionaries from Venezuela for alleged links to the CIA.

Washington has repeatedly rejected the allegations.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Okay, I can't help myself

"Check the War-Mongers of the World: Everyone vote for the Führer!"

There is indeed a frightening political climate accumulating in the United States. Of course, the outcome of these events will not be isolated to that country in an era of spreading American imperialism. Admitedly, we must be cautious when deploying the term 'facism' since the concept itself can lose meaning when it is recklessly applied to all circumstances and political regimes many consider "right-wing".

Herbert Marcuse, having seen first hand the horrors of a true fascism system emerging in Germany during the 1930s, recognized that the U.S. could not in any way be labelled with that tretcherous mark. However, it is vital that we acknowledge the nuanced elements of this political formation, and observe the variable tendencies and features of fascism. Essentially, fascism is more than a sum of its parts though its constituent elements -- war-mongering, advocacy for "peace", notion of a "people", the flattening of the individual, nationalism, etc. -- can in themselves ressemble characteristics of a fascist state. Platitudes and rhetoric are the primary political discourse.

Let us take this article, for example, and a frightening comparison between the Enabling Acts in Germany, which fused the executive and legislative powers to the Fueher -- all under the auspices of a parliamentary system:

Bush could seize absolute control of U.S. government

By Doug ThompsonPublisher, Capitol Hill Blue

President George W. Bush has signed executive orders giving him soleauthority to impose martial law, suspend habeas corpus and ignore the Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits deployment of U.S. troops on American streets. This would give him absolute dictatorial power over the government with nochecks and balances.

Bush discussed imposing martial law on American streets in the aftermath ofthe 9/11 terrorist attacks by activating "national security initiatives" putin place by Ronald Reagan during the 1980s.

These "national security initiatives," hatched in 1982 by controversial Marine Colonel Oliver North, later one of the key players in the Iran-Contra Scandal, charged the Federal Emergency Management Agency with administeringexecutive orders that allowed suspension of the Constitution, implementationof martial law, establishment of internment camps, and the turning the government over to the President.

John Brinkerhoff, deputy director of FEMA, developed the martial law implementation plan, following a template originally developed by former FEMA director Louis Guiffrida to battle a "national uprising of blackmilitants." Gifuffrida's implementation of martial law called for jailing atleast 21 million African Americans in "relocation camps." Brinkerhoff lateradmitted in an interview with the Miami Herald that President Reagan signed off on the initiatives and they remained in place, dormant, until George W.Bush took office.

Brinkerhoff moved on the Anser Institute for Homeland Security and, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, provided the Bush White House and thePentagon with talking points supporting revised "national securityinitiatives" that would could allow imposition of martial law and suspensionof the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the law that is supposed to forbid use of troops for domestic law enforcement.

Brinkerhoff wrote that intentions of Posse Comitatus are "misunderstood and misapplied" and that the U.S. has in times of national emergency the "fulland absolute authority" to send troops into American streets to "enforceorder and maintain the peace."

Bush used parts of the plan to send troops into the streets of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. In addition, FEMA hired former special forcespersonnel from the mercenary firm Blackwater USA to "enforce security."

Blackwater USA, in its promotional materials, describes itself as "the mostcomprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security,peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world," adding that "we have established a global presence and provide training and operationalsolutions for the 21st century in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere."

Blackwater is also a major U.S. contractor in Iraq and has a contract with the Bush White House to provide additional security work "on an as-neededbasis."

The Department of Homeland Security established the "Northern Command forNational Defense," a wide-ranging program that includes FEMA, the Pentagon, the FBI and the National Security Agency. Executive orders already signedby Bush allow the Northern Command to send troops into American streets,seize control of radio and television stations and networks and imposemartial law "in times of national emergency."

The authority to declare what is or is not a national emergency restsentirely with Bush who does not have to either consult or seek the approvalof Congress for permission to assume absolute control over the government of the United States.

The White House press office would neither confirm nor deny existence ofBush's executive orders or the existence of the Northern Command forNational Defense. Neither would the Department of Homeland Security.

But my sources within the White House and DHS tell me the plans are inplace, ready for implementation when the command comes from the man whokeeps telling the American public that he is a "war time president" who will "do anything in my power" to impose his will on the people of the UnitedStates.

And he has made sure that power will be absolute when he chooses to use it.